Cato Manor

Cato Manor is a working-class area located seven kilometers from the city centre of Durban, South Africa.
It was formed when Indian market gardeners came to settle in the area some time after it was given to George Christopher Cato in 1865, who was the first mayor of Durban in 1854. The area attracted attention during the Apartheid era.


Cato Manor became recognised when the Black Africans came to settle in during the 1920s, and rented land from Indian landlords who were there since the early 20th century. To earn a living, people started brewing beer and selling it in the streets of Durban to the workers. The local authorities welcomed people in town for labour but had fears of being overwhelmed by their population.

The Durban System

Local authorities then started the so-called Durban system which required permits from people who were in town to restrict the influx of population. The authorities then instituted the Native Beer Act of 1908, which allowed the municipality to brew and sell beer for self-finance. That became a success and the municipality reaped huge profits which meant that anyone brewing illegally was arrested. That started a dispute between the authorities and the people, culminating in riots.


Towards the end of World War II, about 30,000 squatters had built their shacks in the place, which started even bigger riots between 1949 and 1950 when the Group Areas Act was passed by the government. People were now forced to move from Cato Manor to townships like KwaMashu and the Indians moved to places like Chatsworth and Phoenix. On 23 January 1960, a mob attacked 4 white and 5 black policemen at the Cato Manor Police station; they killed the men and mutilated their bodies. An excerpt from An Ordinary Atrocity by Philip Frankel: "The small police force had been obliged to barricade itself in two adjacent huts which were eventually stormed by more than a thousand rioters. The more fortunate of the nine police who had died had simply been stoned to death, but there were cases of disembowelment flowing from the 'naked aggression and bloodlust of the rioters'."

Cato Manor today

The area began to come to life again in the early 1980s when the Cato Manor Development Association was formed and delivered much needed infrastructure. The area then was funded by the European Union and the Cato Manor Area Based Management was instituted by the eThekwini Municipality to overseeing the development of the area. Cato Manor today has primary schools, a clinic, a market and a multi-purpose center and talks for new places of interest are underway.